5 Ways to Have an Eco-Friendly Holiday Season

December 2, 2013

By Steven Walter

Decorations, gifts, trees, cards, parties, cooking — it seems like every day near the holidays is a party. While making new memories and enjoying the season, Mother Earth should be in the back of your mind. Approximately 25 percent more trash is thrown away during the holiday season, which amounts to around 1 million tons of extra waste per week, Stanford reports. Here are five simple ways to do your part to reduce holiday waste and still enjoy the season:

LED Lights

Photo by Robert.Montalvo via Flickr

Everyone loves to hang lights around the holidays. Lights are strung around trees and draped on our homes. There are even light-up decorations and lawn ornaments. Try using LED lights, as opposed to incandescent lights. LED lights use less energy, which is better for our environment and your wallet. Lighting a tall tree with LED lights approximately 12 hours a day for over a month will only cost you around $0.27, while a tree lit with incandescent lights would cost around $10 for the same duration. LED lights are also safer for kids and pets as they stay much cooler than incandescent lights and are shatter-proof.

Up-cycled Decorations

Photo by various brennemans via Flickr

Rather than going out and buying decorations, try making some from items no longer used around the house. Old light bulbs can be painted and strung on a tree. Use reclaimed wood or metal pieces to cut out decorations for doors and walkways. Stockings can be made out of old holiday sweaters. Make garland out of cranberries and popcorn, which can be eaten by birds outside when you’re done with it.

Holiday Cards

Photo by Grissom7 via Wikimedia Commons

Americans purchase around 6.5 billion greeting cards per year. Of that number, 1.6 billion — including boxes of cards — are for the holiday season. Some say that sending ecards online is a great way to save on waste. While that is true, it isn’t the same as mailing a person a physical card. Send your loved ones holiday cards using recycled paper. Photo postcards from companies like Minted can be printed on 100% recycled paper, so you’re sending out an adorable holiday photo and giving back to the environment at the same time.

Alternative Gifts

Photo by Robert S. Donovan via Flickr

Have you ever received a sweater as a gift that collected dust in your home until you threw it out? Don’t be one of those people. Get creative with your gift giving this holiday season. Give the gift of travel — plane tickets, an outing, zoo memberships, and much more. Gift certificates or tickets are also a great gift that takes up minimal space in the trash. Find out your recipients’ favorite sports team or restaurant, or purchase a subscription to a movie streaming service or book club.

Parties

Photo by COLORED PENCIL magazine

Keep holiday parties fun and eco-friendly by using washable dishes and silverware. After gift opening, be sure to collect paper to reuse or recycle, and make it easy for party attendees to do so. Instead of buying artificial decorations and centerpieces, use colorful fruits and vegetables. It can be as simple as filling large vases with Granny Smith apples or Hershey’s Kisses.

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Welcome to Hark Upon the Green! This blog is a shared space for members of the sustainability community at William & Mary to write about sustainability topics on and beyond. If you would like to contribute to the blog, contact Madeleine Boel, Committee on Sustainability Web Assistant, at mgboel@email.wm.edu.
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